Today, marketers must meet increasing demands for personalisation, while carefully managing consumers’ data privacy concerns. Chris Jordan, Head of Data, Personalisation and Marketing Intelligence, ASEAN, consults with key strategic customers around the use of data and technology in the context of digital marketing. In a recent webinar, he joined marketing leaders from Proton and Kimberly-Clark to discuss why empathetic marketing is important in gaining consumer trust.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic, consumer expectations and behaviours are shifting with unprecedented pace. Strong consumer demand for personalisation is driving new urgency for marketing transformation.

Personalisation requires consumer data. Yet, consumers are concerned about data privacy. How can marketers earn consumers’ trust, in order to deliver personalised consumer experiences?

The answer lies in offering clear value to consumers. Marketers must show consumers how their brands fulfill unmet consumer needs, which can be uncovered by listening to feedback. By doing so, marketers can demonstrate clear value to consumers. This value exchange is at the core of empathetic marketing.

In a recent State of Marketing webinar, I met Vijayaratnam Tharumartnam, Director, Group Corporate Communications at Proton, and Rahul Asthana, Senior Director, Business Transformation APAC at Kimberly-Clark. We discussed what marketing innovation means in a world with COVID-19. Here are some key insights about personalisation, data privacy, and empathetic marketing that surfaced from the webinar:

Understanding the personalisation paradox

According to the Salesforce Sixth State of Marketing report, more than 60% of marketers say that they have improved personalisation across all channels.

To do so, marketers must understand and engage consumers as individuals. Data plays a lead role in achieving this. According to the report, 78% of marketers describe their customer engagement as data driven.

Marketers also expect to use an increasing number of data sources. The report reveals that the median number of data sources used by marketers increased to 10 in 2020. That number is projected to increase to 12 in 2021.

However, data privacy is still a concern among consumers. According to the report, 58% of customers are comfortable with their data being used transparently. Yet, only 63% of consumers say companies are generally transparent about how their data is used.

This is the personalisation paradox. Consumers demand personalisation. Marketers need customer data to improve personalisation. But without transparency into how businesses use that data, marketers risk losing consumer trust.

The ad blocking backlash

Tharumartnam warns that there may be consequences for brands that fail to provide data transparency. He says:

“I think there will be a consumer backlash at some point. It is a very slippery slope from where we currently are with data management to reaching a point of insidiousness.”

This backlash is evident in the consumer uptake of ad blocking plugins, which remove advertising content on webpages. Ad blocking demonstrates that many consumers are no longer responding to digital advertising, and are taking action against it.

Therefore, Asthana recommends a move away from advertising. He says marketers should instead focus on offering a value exchange to consumers:

“Digital is such a versatile medium. A lot of the engagement you can have with consumers doesn’t need to be an ad that they can block. You need clarity around what value your product adds to the life of the consumer. Communicating that value exchange in simple language improves consumer engagement and trust.”

The empathetic marketing solution

This value exchange is at the core of empathetic marketing. Empathetic marketing marks a mindshift away from advertising, towards value-based marketing personalisation.

Tharumartnam likens empathetic marketing to a Hollywood film script. He says marketers need to cast the consumer as the protagonist, identify the consumer’s obstacles, and provide a solution:

“In Star Wars, for example, there is Luke Skywalker. He needs to overcome Darth Vader, but he doesn’t know how. Then along comes Yoda, who offers him the Force. As brands, very often we try to be Luke Skywalker. But we need to learn to be Yoda.”

Tharumartnam used empathetic marketing at Proton during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company identified consumer anxiety around safety. Their Yoda move was to replace the existing filters in their cars with N-95 filters. He says:

“There is a fundamental rule in marketing to listen to customers. We should be using customer feedback to change the product, so that we can come to consumers as a hero with a solution. Otherwise, it’s just fancy words.”

Building trust with informed consent

However, effective empathetic marketing relies on proper consent management. Consumer data plays a vital role in identifying consumers’ unmet needs. But poor consent management will risk eroding the consumer trust that you’ve built.

Many consumers are questioning how their data is being collected, stored, and managed. Therefore, marketers must be transparent and clearly express the value exchange.

Asthana emphasises the need to replace jargon-heavy opt-outs with clear consumer language:

“This is known as informed consent. There was a time when opt-out language was so opaque that as a consumer, I didn’t realise that I was required to do something. We need to place the consumer at the heart of everything we do and say as marketers. If we do not have anything of value to say, then let’s not say it. It’s that sincerity that sustains long-term connections with consumers.”

As consumers demand more personalisation, marketers must provide data transparency to ease privacy fears. Shifting to empathetic marketing based on a clear value exchange helps to build trust and maintain long-term connections with consumers.

Download the Sixth State of Marketing report to learn more about empathetic marketing and other key marketing trends.

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